Thomas

Lane Street Project: Louis Thomas Sr.

Louis Thomas‘ marker, which bears insignia indicating his membership in the Order of Odd Fellows, stands about twenty feet from those of his parents, Charles and Sarah Best Thomas. He was a well-known carpenter.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 38, pressman for printing office; wife Sarah, 33; and children Elton, 9, Louis, 8, Elizabeth, 6, and Hattie May, 2.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month.

On 14 November 1912, Louis Thomas, 21, son of Charlie and Sarah Thomas, married Georgia Aiken, 19, daughter of John and Mary Aiken, in Wilson. L.A. Moore applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Moore, Dr. W.A. Mitchner, and C.L. Darden.

Louis Thomas registered for the World War I draft in Wilson in 1917. Per his registration card, he was born 3 February 1892 in Wilson; lived at 644 Green; worked as a carpenter for Sam Vick; was married; and claimed his wife and three sisters as dependents.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 644 Green, house carpenter Lewis Thomas, 26, and wife Georgia, 24.

On 1 April 1923, Louis Thomas, 27, of Wilson, son of Charlie Thomas, married Lillie Jane Howell, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Daniel J. and Rosa Howell, in Wilson. Presbyterian minister A.H. George performed the ceremony in the presence of George Coley, Rosa Howell, and George McKee.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green, owned and valued at $3000, Gus Thomas, 35, carpenter; wife Lilly, 24; and children Louis, 6, Chas., 4, and V. Jewel, 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green, Louis Thomas, 43, building carpenter; wife Lillie, 33; and children Louis Jr., 16, Charlie H., 14, and Van Jewel, 12.

Louis Thomas Sr. died 5 October 1950 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born November 1894 in Wilson to Charlie Thomas and Sarah Best; lived at 715 East Green Street; worked as a self-employed carpenter; and was buried in Rountree Cemetery. Lillie Jane Thomas was informant.

The obituary of Lizzie H. Dawson, an esteemed woman.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 January 1937.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 38, printing office pressman; wife Sarah, 33; children Elton, 9, Louis, 8, Elizabeth, 6, and Hattie May, 2; and lodgers Manse Wilson, 36, and Johnnie Lewis, 21, both carpenters.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month.

Elizabeth Thomas, 21, of Wilson, daughter of Charlie and Sallie Thomas, married Clarence Dawson, 21, of Wilson, son of A.D. and Lucy Dawson, on 20 March 1917 in Wilson. Andrew Pierce applied for the license, and A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of John Barbour, A.L. Dawson, and Elton Thomas.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Clarence Dawson, 23, barber; wife Elizabeth, 22; and daughter Eris, 2; widower father-in-law Charley Thomas, 59; brother-in-law Clifton Venters, 24, his wife Hattie, 20; and in-laws Elton, 29, Marie, 15, Sarah, 10, and Beatrice Thomas, 8.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 619 East Green Street, printing office laborer Charlie Thomas, 65; daughter Elizabeth Dawson, 32; son-in-law Clarence Dawson, 31; and grandchildren Eris Dawson, 11, Naomi, 9, Clarence, 7, and Thomas V. Dawson, 3; and daughters Sarah, 19, theatre ticket seller, and Beatrice Thomas, 17.

Lizzie Dawson died 16 January 1937 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 July 1894 in Wilson to Charly Thomas of Nash County and Sarah Best of Wilson, and was married to Clarence Dawson. Informant was Charly Thomas.

Lane Street Project: Charles S. Thomas.

Charles S. Thomas‘ pale gray, fine-grained grave marker is unique in Odd Fellows cemetery. It faces southwest, and in late afternoon, catching the rays of the setting sun, glows golden. Thomas was a barber and insurance salesman and long-time chorist at Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church. Before mid-century, granite headstones were relatively rare in Wilson’s African-American cemeteries. (Marble was the favored high-end material; concrete, the ordinary.) The machine-cut decorative features — including the harp as a nod to Thomas’ musical legacy — suggest that this was a replacement stone, perhaps an upgrade, set well after Thomas’ death.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

 

Lane Street Project: Sarah Best Thomas.

Summer 2020, Odd Fellows Cemetery.

December 2020 with leaves fallen and bit of the wisteria cut back.

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In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Pettigrew Street, hireling Lewis Best, 53; wife Harriette, 50; and children Daniel, 23, Sarah, 12, John, 8, and Willie, 10.

On 25 January 1888, Charles Thomas, 23, son of Sarah Thomas, married Sarah Best, 21, daughter of Lewis and Harriet Best. Missionary Baptist minister J.T. Clark performed the ceremony at Lewis Best’s in the presence of Charles Barbry, Wyatt Studaway and Charles Williamson.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 38, printing office pressman; wife Sarah, 33; children Elton, 9, Louis, 8, Elizabeth, 6, and Hattie May, 2; and lodgers Manse Wilson, 36, and Johnnie Lewis, 21, both carpenters.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charlie Thomas, 49, laborer for printing office; wife Sarah, 44; and children Elton, 20, Lizzie, 18, Louis, 15, Hattie M., 11, Mary, 5, and Sarah, 1 month.

Sarah Thomas died 16 August 1916 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 46 years old; was born in Greene County, N.C., to Lewis Bess; and was married. Charles Thomas was informant. Her burial location was listed only as “Wilson County.”

The South is all right.

On the eve of the civil rights movement, Wilson Daily Times editor John D. Gold penned this soothing editorial meant to reassure his readers (or the white ones, anyway) that there was no trouble “between the races” in the South, that colored people know “the Southern white man is his friend,” and that Negroes are loyal and faithful around the house and farm. The piece is rubbish, but includes views of Charlie Thomas, who worked for the Golds as a house servant and at the newspaper, and Dick Pender, who worked for the Golds and, most especially, for Joshua Barnes. (Pender died in 1896; Gold had to reach way back for him.)

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Wilson Daily Times, 12 May 1948.

Johnny Thomas’ forefathers.

Some Black Families of Wilson County, North Carolina, a compilation of The Hugh B. Johnston Jr. Working Papers published in 1997 by Wilson County Genealogical Society, contains several typed worksheets that Johnston asked his subjects to complete (or filled in while interviewing them.)

Johnny Thomas‘ undated questionnaire is reproduced in the volume. It appears to have been completed by Thomas in his own handwriting. Hugh Johnston did not shy away from the public identification of the white fathers of African-American children, and Thomas was forthcoming.

In summary, Johnny Thomas wrote:

  • His father Alfred Thomas was born in 1863 in Wilson [County].
  • His mother Lula Ruffin Thomas was born in 1877 in Wilson [County].
  • He did not know for whom Alfred Thomas was named.
  • Was Alfred Thomas’ father Alfred Thomas or Hilliard Thomas? Hilliard Thomas [Most likely, Hilliard Thomas (1824-1884), son of Eason and Mary Eure Thomas and a maternal relative of Hugh Johnston.]
  • “What do you remember your father, Alfred Thomas, saying about his father or his father’s white family connections?” “I can rember my father having his farther picture, he was trully white.”
  • Was Lula Ruffin’s father “Little Jimmy” Woodard or “Coon” Farmer? Coon Farmer [William Thomas “Coon” Farmer (1858-1912), son of Isaac B. and Nancy Yelverton Farmer.]
  • “What do you remember your mother, Lula Ruffin Thomas, saying about her father or her father’s white family connections?” “She said that her farther also was white.”
  • “Your grandmother Adline Thomas was born in 1842 and died on March 20, 1926. Where did she die?” “On Tarboro Highway [now N.C. Highway 42].” Where buried? Rountree cemetery. “What do you remember about her appearance, personality, or unusual qualities?” “Well she was very fair long straight hair.”

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In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County; farmer Jordan Thomas, 52, who reported owning $175 in real property and $100 in personal. Next door: Eliza Thomas, 52, Henriet, 35, Hariet, 30, Alfred, 9, Jordan, 7, John, 11, Charity, 10, and Henry, 6.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jordan Thomas, 68; daughters Henyeter, 42, and Harty [Adeline], 40; and grandchildren John, 21, Charity, 18, Henry, 15, Jordan, 17, and Alfread, 18.

On 2 January 1890, Alfred Thomas, 26, of Gardners township, son of Adaline Thomas, married Cornelia Whitehead, 31, daughter of Richard Hagans and Alley Hagans, in Wilson County in the presence of Jordan Thomas, Lawrence Hagans and James Kelley.

On 1 March 1899, Alfred Thomas, 39, of Wilson County, son of Adline Thomas, married Lou Ruffin, 21, of Wilson County, daughter of Liza Ruffin. Primitive Baptist minister James S. Woodard performed the ceremony in the presence of Peter Thomas, Charles Hagans and Joseph Hagans.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Alford Thomas, 36; wife Lou, 18; and children Sallie, 12, Florra, 9, and Mary T., 6 months; and servant Cora White, 17.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on the Plank Road, farmer Alford Thomas, 42; wife Lula, 26; children Mary, 9, Martha, 8, Sudie, 6, Lula, 4, and Jordan, 3; and mother Adline Thomas, 57.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 March 1919. The runaways were likely Johnny Thomas’ sisters Sudie and Lula Thomas.

In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on “Stantion Burg Road,” Alford Thomas, 75; wife Lula, 50; children Lula, 26, Jordon, 22, Johnnie, 20, and Pattie, 16; and grandson James, 2.

On 26 July 1930, Johnnie Thomas, 21, of Wilson, son of Alf Thomas and Lula [no last name listed], married Thelma Ward, 20, daughter of Frank and Winnie Ward, in Wilson.

On 21 May 1931, Lula Thomas died in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 44 years old; was born in Wilson County to Coon Farmer and Eliza Ruffin; and was engaged in farming. Sudie Plant of Rocky Mount, N.C., was informant.

Alfred Thomas died 16 January 1933 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 70 years old; was born in Wilson County to Adline Thomas and “father unknown”; was a farmer; and was married to Lula Thomas. Jordan Thomas was informant.

In the 1940 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer John Thomas, 30; wife Thelma, 30; children Walter H., 11, James, 8, Rosa Lee, 13, and Willie F., 5; grandmother Rosa Harris, 86; and lodger Zebedee Ford, 19.

Johnny Thomas died 22 March 1986 in Wilson.

From the reproduction of the program for Johnny Thomas’ funeral service printed in Johnston’s Some Black Families.

Colored persons buried in the Thomas graveyard.

Some Black Families of Wilson County, North Carolina, a compilation of The Hugh B. Johnston Working Papers published in 1997 by Wilson County Genealogical Society, contains a list of “Colored Persons Buried in the Old Thomas Graveyard on the Drake Thomas Farm.” The Old Thomas Graveyard, located just east of Wilson off N.C. Highway 42, is also known as the Toisnot Baptist Church cemetery. Per a marker in the cemetery: “Thomas Graveyard. Many early members of Toisnot Baptist Church lie near in unmarked graves. The Thomases continued to bury here for a century after the church was moved in 1803. …”

Here annotated, the list includes:

  • Charles Bynum, born 1825, and Caroline Bynum, born 1826 — they were former slaves of Colonel Robert Bynum and were both reputed locally as “conjure doctors”

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Charles Bynum, 45, farmer; wife Caroline, 34; and sons Richard, 3, and Isaac, 17. (In a duplicate entry in the same township: Charles Bynum, 38; wife Caroline, 39; and sons Isaac, 16, and Rich’d, 3.)

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Charles Bynum, 49, farmer; wife Caroline, 48; and son Richard, 14.

  • Isaac Bynum, son of Charles, was born in 1853 and died February 13, 1915.

In the 1880 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Isac Bynum, 27, farm laborer.

On 3 September 1882, in Gardners township, Isaac Bynum, 28, of Wilson, son of Chls. Bynum and Cynthy Thorn, married Laura Bynum, 31, of Wilson, daughter of Tart Bynum and Rhody Bynum.

Isaac Bynum died 13 February 1915 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1848 in Wilson County to Chas. Bynum and Caroline Thorne and was a widower. J.B. Farmer was informant.

  • William “Will” Weaver, Sr., born 1854, died September 2, 1930.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Tarboro Road, farm laborer William Weaver, 56; wife Celia, 48; and sons Charlie, 16, and Iversen, 11.

William Weaver died 2 September 1930 in Coopers township, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was 78 years old; was born in Edgecombe County to William Weaver and Fannie Weaver; and was married to Sealy Weaver. Informant was Frank Weaver, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

  • George Weaver, son of William Weaver, born 1875

George Weaver died 27 January 1941 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 9 March 1887 in Edgecombe County to Bill Weaver and Annie Williams; was a farmer; and was the widower of Mary L. Weaver. Contrary to Johnston’s assertion, George Weaver was buried in “Bynum cemetery,” Wilson County. James Weaver, 301 Finch Street, was informant.

  • Johnnie Weaver, son of William Weaver
  • Louis Williams, a native of Pitt County

In the 1870 census of California township, Pitt County, North Carolina: Louis Williams, 25; wife Delphia, 20; and children Emily, 6, Willis, 4, and Ben, 2.

In the 1880 census of Farmville township, Pitt County: Lewis Williams, 32; wife Delphia, 35; and children Jenny, 15, Willie, 12, Ernold, 10, Lewis, 7, Mariah, 5, Jerry, 3, and Pattie, 1.

In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Williams, 62; wife Delphia, 64; and children Lewis, 23, Pattie, 20, Jerry, 19, Lena, 17, Isaac, 15, Eddie, 13, Emmie, 11, and Odie G., 9.

  • Delphia Williams, wife of Louis and daughter of Jerry Smith and wife Annie Smith of Pitt County
  • Jerry Williams, son of Louis Williams

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, farmer Jerry Williams, 40; wife Mary, 28; and children Edward, 10, Martha, 8, Maggie, 5, and Jerry, 1.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jerry Williams, 48; [second] wife Martha, 38; and children Eddie, 18, Martha, 14, Maggie, 11, Jerry Jr., 7, Lucille, 5, and Nestus, 1.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Jerry Williams, 60; wife Martha, 50; and children Eddie, 30, Jerry, 21, Lucille, 17, Ivy, 15, Nestus, 11, and Wade, 4.

Jerry Williams died 1 December 1946 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 January 1882 in Wilson County to Louis Williams of Edgecombe County and Delphia Williams; was married to Martha Williams; and, contrary to Hugh Johnston, was buried in Rest Haven cemetery. Jerry Williams was informant.

  • Mary, wife of young Jerry Williams, was born in 1894 and died on March 5, 1920.

Mary Williams died 5 March 1920 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 28 years old; married to Jerry Williams; was born in Edgecombe County to Tony Sharp and Sarah Wasten.

  • Alex Ray, son of George and Hannah Ray, was born in 1851 on the ancestral plantation of Captain Culbreth in Cumberland County and died on the George W. Thomas farm on January 15, 1941.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Alex Ray, 62, widower, farmer.

In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Alex Ray, 75, widower, farmer.

In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Alex Ray, 90, widower, farmer.

Alex Ray died 15 January 1941 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in Cumberland County, North Carolina, to George Ray and Hannah Ray; was 89 years old; and was a farmer and a widower. Informant was Lizzie Williams. He was buried in Thomas cemetery.

  • Jenny Williams Thomas, wife of Jordan Thomas and daughter of Louis and Delphia Williams, was born in 1867 in Pitt County, and died on the T. Drake Thomas farm on February 9, 1925.

In the 1920 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Jordan Thomas, 53; wife Jennie, 50; nephews Jerry Williams, 13, and Nathan Williams, 7; and uncle Arner Williams, 80.

Gennie Thomas died 9 February 1925 in Gardners township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old; was married to Jordan Thomas; was born in Pitt County, North Carolina, to Lewis Williams and Delphia Williams, both of Edgecombe County; and farmed for Mrs. W.L. Banks. Jordan Thomas was informant.

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The obituary of Della Barnes Thomas.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 October 1951.

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In the 1880 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Wright Barnes, 31; and wife Jane, 29; and children Henryetta, 11, Susan, 9, Della, 8, William W., 7, Mattie, 5, and John R., 4 months.

On 10 June 1893, Tommy Thomas, 26, married Della Barnes, 20, at Martha Winstead‘s in Wilson township. Free Will Baptist minister Daniel Blount performed the ceremony in the presence of Julia Blount, Albert Winstead and Giney Winstead.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Finch Mill Road, farmer Thomas Thomas, 44; wife Della, 31; and children Joseph, 14, Fred, 6, Lizzie, 3, and Ida, 1.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 211 Walnut Street, rented for $12/month, Tom Thomas, 63; wife Della, 40; and children Ida, 21, Larrie, 19, George, 17, and Jessie W., 15.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 604 Warren Street, Tom Thomas, 74; wife Della, 69; and son Jessie, 24, who worked in a tobacco factory machine room.

In 1942, Jessie Wright Thomas registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 7 January 1915 in Wilson; resided at 604 South Warren; his contact was mother, Della Barnes Thomas; and he worked for Southern Tobacco Company, South Tarboro Street, Wilson.

Fred Thomas died 25 December 1945 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 March 1905 in Wilson County to Thomas Thompson [sic] and Della Barnes; worked as a laborer; and resided at 604 South Warren.

Della Thomas died 14 October 1951 at her home at 604 South Warren Street. Per her death certificate, she was 79 years old; was born in Wilson County to Thomas Thomas [sic] and Jane Barnes; and was a widow. Jessie Thomas was informant.

The end of the Red Hots?

In 1938, the city of Wilson professionalized its firefighting operations, converting the white volunteer department to semi-paid status. The Daily Times originally reported that the black volunteer organization, the Red Hots, would be abolished, but here clarified that, while they were being retired from active service, they would continue to send representatives to competitions and state conventions and would be called upon in emergencies.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 July 1938.

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  • Ben Mincey
  • George Coppedge — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason George Coppedge, 34; wife Mittie, 34; and children George Jr., 4, and Elenora, 2.
  • Aaron Best — William Aaron Best died 21 August 1949 at his home at 1009 East Nash Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 September 1900 in Wilson County to Aaron Best and Nannie Best; was a widower; and had been a laborer at Export Tobacco Company. Audrey Best was informant.
  • Ambrose Floyd — in 1942, Ambrose Floyd registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1901 in Lumberton, North Carolina; resided at 1214 East Nash Street; his contact was Clara Smith; and he was employed by Gary Fulghum, 901 Branch Street, United States Post Office.
  • W.J. Howell
  • Henry Sauls — in 1942, Henry Sauls registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 February 1898 in Black Creek; resided at 21 Carolina Street (mailing address 1114 Carolina Street); his contact was Hattie Davis, 19 Carolina Street; and he worked for W.T. Clark Jr., 1415 West Nash Street, Barnes Street tobacco factory.
  • Louis Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 East Green Street, carpenter Louis Thomas, 53; wife Lillie, 33; and children Louis Jr., 16, Charlie H., 14, and Van Jewel, 12.